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Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Review: Orchards // Losers/Lovers EP

Hailing from Brighton, Orchards, are one of the latest bands catching the imagination of the UK math rock scene. Not strictly 'math rock' but more 'math pop', their new EP combines the uplifting sounds of bands like And So I Watch You From Afar & Tiny Moving Parts with pop hooks and a sound reminiscent of Paramore's latest album.

Losers/Lovers opens with lead single 'Luv You 2', the bands first release after signing for Big Scary Monsters, and is the perfect introduction to the band. Prevalent with catchy hooks cemented by a sing along chorus it'll be stuck in your head from the first listen, whilst the math rock influence  means by the 20th listen you will still be finding intricasies you missed the first time round.



Not only does 'Luv You 2' set the musical scene for the EP but also in a lyrical sense; painting a picture of a lost love across the back drop of uplifting melodies, a style Orchards seem to have mastered.

These themes carry on through the next two tracks 'Drama King' & 'Be Here', which are both solid entries, but 'Double Vision' is the next real head turner on the record. It shows of the Orchards' ability to write a great pop song; catchy choruses & a brilliant sing along bridge will have it stuck in your head for weeks!


The second half of the EP begins with new song 'Age Of You', similarly to 'Drama King' & 'Be Here' the song further showcases the bands' ability to not only write singles but also high quality pop album tracks. However with it following 'Double Vision' you can't help but feel the bridge as been almost directly lifted from the previous song.

The record closes with 3 previously released songs; 'Peggy', 'Honey' & 'Darling'. This blend of old and new songs makes the EP the perfect introduction to Orchards but also comes across as a statement of intent. It demonstrates perfectly the evolution of the band and how they've polished their sound into something that could see them go really far.

8/10

Losers/Lovers is released on Big Scary Monsters on 6th July 2018 - Pre-order HERE

You can catch Orchards at TRUCK festival & ArcTanGent this summer

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Review: Royal Blood // How Did We Get So Dark?



Royal Blood went from session musicians to a number one debut album and touring with the likes of Foo Fighters in just a few years. Their riff infused blues rock won them fans around the world, most notably in Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Now they face the daunting task of following their 2014 self-titled debut with their highly anticipated second album, “How Did We Get So Dark?”

The eponymous opening track has the hardest job of being the album’s introduction, but sets the tone well for the record. The track is still built around Mike Kerr’s excellent work on bass but substitutes raw aggression for a softer and more deliberate approach. This continues into single “Lights Out”, where it becomes obvious album has left the stripped back style of their debut for something a bit smoother and possibly, more radio friendly. Easily the highpoint of the album, “I Only Lie When I Love You”, is the third single and the one that most resembles their earlier work. The riff is catchy and lyrics delivered with a ferocity that is almost equalled on “Hook, Line and Sinker”.

The problem with “How Did We Get So Dark?”? The bluesy riffs, the witty lyrics and technically brilliant solos are all there, but it lacks punch. Songs like “Look Like You Know” and “Where Are You Now?” are good efforts but don’t hit as hard as they should. They’re the kind of songs someone would tap their foot to and enjoy, but don’t conjure up the image of sweaty, intimate gigs where the crowd would go wild for them. However, the bands live reputation is enough to think that these songs will take on a new life in an arena, especially as they begin to retire some fan favourites from their set lists.

Despite this, the album finishes strongly. “Hole in Your Heart” incorporates piano into the verse, reminiscent of the style of Muse – the kind of experimentation that’s both welcome and works. “Sleep” is a great close to the record, where the band show a keen sense of melody and end with haunting vocals that make it another highlight.


It all comes together to form a strange result. Not the amazing follow up that was hoped for, but definitely not a “disappointing second album”. For many the band are still pioneers for a new age of rock and “How Did We Get So Dark?” will likely satisfy them. However, the album’s title indicated something unexpected, risky and abrasive – but it didn’t quite deliver.

-Calum


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Feature: Otter Wales // GIRL Cardiff

The Venue: Buffalo Bar, Cardiff
Recently a lot has been made of the lack of female fronted acts at the top end of the alternative scene, specifically in the recent Reading & Leeds 2017 announcements. So we decided to check out what's being done at the grass roots level in Cardiff to promote female led acts.

Otter Wales is an events company aimed at improving gender equality in the music industry. We caught up with them at their 3rd event which took place in Buffalo Bar, Cardiff.

Having started Otter Wales as his third year uni project, founder Zac has been building the company for over a year. The idea was inspired by the Reading & Leads '15 line up which was criticised for it's lack of female acts. He believed the issue did not lie with the festival promoters but in fact the amount of support at grass roots level for female led artists, creating Otter Wales to combat that.

Opening act: Winter Coat
Otter Wales is now run by both Zac and old school mate Ethan with each taking particular roles within the setup.

Having graduated with a degree in popular music, Zac looks after the music and booking for their events whereas Ethan takes over the media side creating videos and photography which can help give the acts they've booked an extra boost of publicity after the gig. Despite the two of them coordinating everything they were keen to stress that Otter Wales is a collective and not exclusive to the two of them.
WOMEN's artwork

Not only do they have a support team of 3 photographers and an extra helper, Jess, who Zac referred to as their "database of music", but they also have support from a lot of like minded organisations. Involved in just this gig were Dizzy Pineapple and WOMEN (Women of Music Events Network) who brought along glitter and interactive artwork.



All this hard work, networking and community created an incredible atmosphere for the event, there was a real feeling that everyone was there for the same reason; supporting a cause they believe in and to enjoy some good music a feeling that can only be good for the acts involved and female led music in general.



After this successful event in Cardiff and one just before in Bath, Otter Wales plan on bringing events to Bristol and Swansea in the near future, as well as a further show with Rozelle at Buffalo, Cardiff.

Otter Wales: FACEBOOK | TWITTER

-Luke

(all photo credit: Ashlea Bea Photography)


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Review: Arcane Roots // Curtains

Arcane Roots, today, released the video for new track 'Curtains'. After their critically acclaimed EP 'Heaven & Earth', new music from the Scottish band has been eagerly awaited.


'Curtains' can be seen to build off of song 'If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves' in that the song follows a similar pattern. However 'Curtains' seems to be the 'final' version of the song from 'Heaven & Earth'. It has a more full, deeper and more complete sound and appears to offer up a brilliant taste of Arcane Roots rumoured upcoming album.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Stereo Brain // 2016 Awards Results

Thanks to everyone who voted in this years Stereo Brain Awards. The public vote scores have been added to our Stereo Brain scores - here are the results!

CARDIFF AWARDS - BEST BAND

Chroma @ Gwdihw Cafe Bar 23/11/16
(Photo: Robin Norman Photgraphy)
1st Place - CHROMA

The bi-lingual 3 piece from Pontypridd have had a mega 2016. They released an excellent debut EP which has been backed up by a string of impressive live performances across the city. With support from BBC horizons, being added to the Forte Project roster for 2017 and a new single imminent - CHROMA are set to go from strength to strength and are deserved winners of this award!
Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

2nd Place - The Fused
Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud

3rd Place - Local Enemy
Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud

CARDIFF AWARDS - BEST PROMOTER

1st Place - Young Promoters Network

The Young Promoters Network (or YPN) is an organisation made up of people under the age of 25 with the aim of putting on gigs, supporting the local music scene and supporting young people who want to be involved in the music industry. This year YPN began a partnership with Forte Project, created an organisation called W.O.M.E.N and provided one of the highlights at Swn festival with the inclusion of BETSY in their line up.
Facebook | Twitter

2nd Place - Luckyman Records
Facebook | Twitter

3rd Place - Orchard Entertainment
Facebook | Twitter

CARDIFF AWARDS - BEST FESTIVAL

1st Place - Swn Festival


Swn Festival, now in it's 10th year, triumphed musically both locally and nationally. With a wonderful array of upcoming talent from all over the country and most importantly from South Wales the festival was jam packed with absolute gems.

2nd Place - HOYfest

HOYfest, in it's first year, deserves a mention too. A wonderful line up of exciting and new indie acts. The highlights included wonderful headline sets from hotly tipped VANT and indie-funkers (who were 2nd place in last years Stereo Brain Album Of The Year) The Milk.

3rd Place - Dim Swn

BEST EP OF 2016

1st Place - CHROMA // CHROMA EP



2nd Place - VANT // Karma Seeker EP


3rd Place - Montreux Fires // Trying For The Sake Of Trying



BEST SONG OF 2016

1st Place - Blink-182 // Bored To Death

Blink 182's latest album is a step forward for the band. Leaving behind Tom Delonge they've produced, arguably, some of the best material of their career. This includes a fantastic sing along single in 'Bored To Death'.



=2nd Place - Twenty One Pilots // Heathens
=2nd Place - Biffy Clyro // Wolves Of Winter
=2nd Place - Enter Shikari // Hoodwinker

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Stereo Brain // Cardiff Awards Longlist

Best Band

CHROMA
  • Released an EP featured in Stereo Brain EP of the year list
  • New single to be released 29th December
  • A series of headline shows at Clwb & Gwdihw & notable support slots at Clwb Ifor Bach
  • Secured BBC Horizons / Gorwelion funding
Estrons
  •  Released an EP featured in Stereo Brain EP of the year list
  • Supported Slaves on their 'Back In The Van Tour'
  • Co-headline tour with The Bay Rays
  • Impressive headline show upstairs in Clwb
  • Secured BBC Horizons / Gorwelion funding
The Fused
  • Debut single release
  • Impressive headline shows at Undertone
  • Perfromances at HUBfest & Hoyfest
Himalayas
  • Released Ecstacy EP
  • Established performances at HUBfest, Swn fest an Xpresstival
  • Headlined Fireball Whiskey stage at HOYfest
  • Secured BBC Horizons / Gorwelion funding
Upbeat Sneakers
  • Released two strong singles
  • Supported Madness amongst other notable support/headline slots
  • Secured BBC Horizons / Gorwelion funding
The Broadcasts
  • An excellent debut album release
  • A series of notable support/headline slots around the city
  • A european tour
Local Enemy
  • Headlined a stage at Cardiff's legendary Swn fest and had Huw Stephens turn up for good measure
  • Performance at half time at the Cardiff City Stadium
  • Charity single
Best Promoter

Fuelled By Jealous Lovers
  • Bringing excellent overseas bands such as Modern Baseball, Into It. Over It & Pinegrove amongst other UK acts
Orchard Entertainment
  • Put on one of my favourite gigs of the year - Black Peaks & Heck at Clwb Ifor Bach
  • Supporting up 'n' coming & local acts including Fickle Friends, Sundara Karma, VANT, Chroma, Parcs and so many more!
Luckyman Records
  • Put on the best festival nominated HOYfest
  • Brought This Feeling gigs & club night to Cardiff
  • A lot of support for local bands at all of their gigs
Young Promoters Network
  • Designed specifically to support acts from the South Wales area
  • Booked one of the most anticipated acts of Swn festival - Betsy
  • Presence at both HUBfest, Swn & Dim Swn festivals
  • Continued partneship with Forte Project and their artists
Imperial Music
  • Put on Cardiff's only metal festival - Throwfest
  • Booked some of the best hardcore/rock/metal bands from around the UK
  • Continued support for the heavier music scene in Cardiff

Stereo Brain // Album Of The Year Longlist

Andy Hull & Robert McDowell // Swiss Army Man Soundtrack
Genre: Soundtrack
Label: Lakeshore Records
Released: 24th June
Verdict: Something that's just a bit different - interesting and inventive musically while still capturing the essence of a movie of the same irk.






Architects // All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
Genre: Metalcore
Label: Epitaph Records
Released: 27th May
Verdict: Loud, in your face and yet incredibly intricate. Certainly Architects best work to date.





Black Foxxes // I'm Not Well
Genre: Alternative
Label: Spinefarm Records
Released: 19th August
Verdict: An album that demonstrates the potential that Black Foxxes showed from early on. Emotional, guitar driven and a must for any list.







Black Peaks // Statues
Genre: Rock
Label: Sony
Released: 8th April
Verdict: Seen by most as the most exciting rock album for years and I couldn't agree more. Anthemic and interesting - it was once described to me as "the math rock early Foals meets the heaviness of Deftones". Incidentally this album is the reason Deftones' record didn't make it on the list



Blossoms // Blossoms
Genre: Indie-Pop
Label: Virgin EMI
Released: 5th August
Verdict: Modern day indie-pop meets 80's in Blossoms' debut album. This album was a hit and made it to UK number 1 for two weeks.





Biffy Clyro // Ellipsis
Genre: Rock
Label: 14th Floor Records
Released: 8th July

Verdict: It's been a big year for Biffy and this album showed what they're still capable of. 'Wolves of Winter'' was one of the songs of the year and it's backed up by a brilliant album.





Daughter // Not To Dissapear
Genre: Indie
Label: Glassnote Records
Released: 15th January
Verdict: Delicate, quiet and thoughtful are words that spring to mind when you listen to Daughter's latest outing. It's pleasant and comfortable listening all the way.







Frightened Rabbit // Painting Of A Panic Attack
Genre: Indie
Label: Atlantic Records
Released: 8th April
Verdict: After making fans wait over 3 years for album number five, scottish indie rock powerhouses Frightened Rabbit did not disappoint. Their latest album shows a new side to the band while maintaining their distinctive style.




The Hunna // 100
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: High Time Records
Released: 26th August
Verdict: A band that only began in October 2015, they've taken social media by storm and created a large fan base of young music fans. The release of their debut album demonstrates how they've managed it - catchy songs, meaningful lyrics and dancy riffs all carried a long with persona of rock stars.




Joyce Manor // Cody
Genre: Emo-Grunge
Label: Epitaph Records
Released: 7th October
Verdict: Joyce Manor's latest outing is that little bit less grunge and a bit more emo than their previous records. This is nothing but a good thing however - it's an album that feels much more open and inviting while maintaining the bands recognisable sound.





The Lion & The Wolf // The Cardiac Hotel
Genre: Indie
Label: Xtra Mile
Released: 7th October
Verdict: After his beautiful debut, The Lion & The Wolf develops his sound on this new record. With more depth and more emotion this one hits right in the feelings.






Modern Baseball // Holy Ghost
Genre: Emo
Label: Run For Cover/Big Scary Monsters
Released: 13th May
Verdict: Their best record to date, on 'Holy Ghost' Mobo look at so much more than bad luck with girls and go much deeper into their own lives in a truly personal album.
FULL REVIEW







PUP // The Dream Is Over
Genre: Punk Rock
Label: Royal Mountain Records
Released: 27th May
Verdict: Listening to this album is like an angry jolt back to reality.









Panic! At The Disco // Death Of A Bachelor

Genre: Alternative
Label: Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen
Released: 15th January
Verdict: I initially described this album as 'pop punk meets Michael Buble' - this was meant as a bad thing but overtime this record has really grown on me and shown what it's really about to become one of my favourites from this year.



Radiohead // A Moon Shaped Pool
Genre: Indie
Label: XL Recordings
Released: 8th May
Verdict: Delicate and experimental. This was Radiohead at their finest. AN utterly beautiful album







Rusty Shackle // Dusk
Genre: Alt Folk
Label: Get Folked Records
Released: 25th March
Verdict: A mix of bouncy fun folk and serious musical talent comes together on the welsh bands finest record to date.

Slaves // Take Control
Genre: Punk
Label: Virgin EMI
Released: Slaves
Verdict: Last years winners come back with a punk-ier and less apologetic follow up to Are You Satisfied?. The record screams potential and the future if Slaves' sound.
FULL REVIEW




Spring King // Tell Me If You Like To
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Island Records
Released: 10th June
Verdict: One of the best debut records of the year and also features one of the catchiest alternative tunes of they year - 'Demons'






Tigercub // Abstract Figures In The Dark
Genre: Rock
Label: Alcopop!
Released: 11th November
Verdict: Imagine a darker and grungier Queens Of The Stoneage and you have this record. It's musically brilliant and a really great listen.





Viola Beach // Viola Beach
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Fuller Beans Records
Released: 29th July
Verdict: A posthumous inclusion for one of the UK's most promising bands. Released shortly after their and their managers deaths to commemorate them. Coldplay even covered their song as they headlined Glastonbury.




YAK // Alas Salvation
Genre: Rock
Label: Octopus Electrical
Released: 13th May
Verdict: Loud, unapologetic and grungy. Yak burst onto the scene this year with 2 tours plus a stint supporting The Last Shadow Puppets - all in all it's been a great year for them.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Stereo Brain // 2016 Awards Lists Part 2

Tuuuuune Of The Year
Biffy Clyro - Wolves Of Winter
Black Peaks - Say You Will
blink-182 - Bored To Death
Blossoms - At Most A Kiss
Brand New - I Am A Nightmare
Chase & Status - Control (feat. Slaves)
Enter Shikari - Hoodwinker
Hacktivist - Taken (feat. Rou Reynolds)
Modern Baseball - Wedding Singer
Panic! At The Disco - Crazy = Genius
The Qemists - Run You
Slaves - Spit It Out
Spring King - Demons
twenty one pilots - Heathens
Twin Atlantic - No Sleep
VANT - Fly-by-Alien
Viola Beach - Swings And Roundabouts

CARDIFF AWARDS
Best Band
CHROMA
Estrons
The Fused
Himalayas
Upbeat Sneakers
The Broadcasts
Local Enemy

Best Promoter

Fuelled By Jealous Lovers
Orchard Entertainment
LUCKYMAN RECORDS
Young Promoters Network
Imperial Music

Best Festival
Dim Swn
Xpresstival
Hoyfest 2016
HUB Festival Cardiff
Swn
Throwfest

Monday, 28 November 2016

Stereo Brain // Fairtrade Music



Everything nowadays is instant, people want everything straight away and then quickly shuffle off to the next thing. Being part of the so-called 'iPhone generation' I'm perfectly guilty of this, hopping from craze to craze like an excitable dog in a room full of hundreds of its favourite toys. However music is not a place where I like to rush things.

The anticipation of waiting for a CD to arrive in the post or browsing a record shop not knowing what I'm going to pick up are some of the most exciting feelings for me. When I get the disc I set aside a couple of hours on the day it arrives in my life just to listen. That's how I consume my music, listening carefully and absorbing it slowly, sipping at it like an expensive glass of wine and savouring the taste.

For many these days consuming music is something instant. They open Spotify or Apple Music and it's all there in front of them, and that really means ALL of it. Someone with one of these services can listen to almost any track ever made (provided they have an Internet connection) for something like the cost of an album per month. Don't get me wrong, these services have brilliant advantages and the idea you can listen to anything you want is amazing as a music fan but it's not quite that simple.

As with anything these days the idea that you get what you pay for runs rife in music. I'm sure you've all heard of 'Fairtrade', if not it's a sticker on a piece of food or whatever that means 'if you buy this product the person who farmed/made this gets paid properly'. Seeing this sticker on the food often means it's just that little bit more expensive but you know it's for good reason. Likewise with the 'organic' or 'free range' stickers, you pay that bit more so you know that everything in the process is done properly.

Music, in reality, is no different. Sure Spotify is the cheapest way to consume music. You pay less than £10 a month to get access to all the music you could possibly want. It's a great deal for you but, like buying a cheap shirt from Primark, it's not good for the people who made it.

"Ah" I hear you say, "but it makes it so much easier for small bands to be discovered". Sure... maybe if 'discovered' means having one song picked to appear on a few people's 'Discover' playlists through an algorithm, you might have a point. Of course there are people who listen their 'Discover' playlists pick out the ones they like and put them on another playlist and continue listening but most of those couldn't tell you the name of the song let alone the artist. That's not discovered. 'Discovered' often comes along when a lot of people that know a lot about music feature you on their radio show/dj set/blog/magazine because in reality those are the things that will make or break a band.

Then there's the other obstacle Spotify throws up - it's impact on the charts. A lot people like listening to the same old stuff they always have and, with streaming being included in the charts, it means that it's so much harder for new bands to work their way up into the top 100 let alone top 10. All this while albums like 'Greatest Hits' by Queen have been sat in the top 100 for 72 weeks in 2015 & 2016 - an album which made it's first appearance in 1981 and stays there due to streaming figures.

Even if a new band fights past these barriers and does get 'discovered' Spotify doesn't even help then! It pays artists between £0.0048 - £0.0068 per play. Lets assume it's the upper edge of that and now to pay an artist the normal album price of £7.99 you have to listen to tracks over 1000 times on Spotify to pay them that money - it's crazy

So when all this is considered it leads to the current situation in the music industry where nobody except those bands that have already made it have enough money to keep going and it's become so much harder to make it to the top. This, slowly but surely, is creating a massive stagnation in the music industry. To see this you don't have to look further than Download festival's headliners last year (Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden & Rammstein) who have all been around for 20+ years!

However with music it's easy to make a change; stop paying your Spotify subscriptions head down to your nearest record shop or your favourite artists' gig and pick up a CD or a vinyl and get yourself some 'fairtrade music'. Without it musicians won't have enough money to make new music, go on tours and be able to live off of their music - something that's never been easy but also something that is now harder than ever.